St. Louis Cardinals Book Review: Runnin’ Redbirds

World Series - St. Louis Cardinals v Milwaukee Brewers - Game Two
World Series - St. Louis Cardinals v Milwaukee Brewers - Game Two / Rich Pilling/GettyImages

If you need something to read during a St. Louis Cardinals' off-day, please check out Eric Vickrey's book, Runnin' Redbirds: The World Champion 1982 St. Louis Cardinals. Using primary sources, including player interviews, Vickrey captures the wild ride that was the 1982 season and how Herzog set the team up to succeed.

Last week, former Cardinals manager Whitey Herzog passed away at 92 years old. Under Herzog, St. Louis' hitters took advantage of the spacious Busch Stadium II by utilizing speed and sacrifice bunts, also known as "Whiteyball." Eric Vickrey, who grew up in the St. Louis region during the Whiteyball era, describes the events that led to the Cardinals' ninth World Series championship.

First, Vickrey describes how the Cardinals arrived at Whiteyball following the frustrations of 1969 through 1981. Vickrey notes momentous franchise-altering moves such as the Steve Carlton trade to Philadelphia and the hiring of Vern Rapp, whose militant approach to managing ruined player relations. One detail not mentioned was Gussie Busch's failed 1969 season-opening speech that altered the clubhouse chemistry and affected the Cardinals' run to a third-straight NL pennant.

1980 sees Whitey Herzog take over for Ken Boyer, considered a player's manager. Vickrey describes in precise detail Herzog's background growing up in New Athens, Illinois, to professional baseball, and later as a manager with Texas and Kansas City. When Herzog took over in St. Louis, he realized that the Cardinals had talented players but players who did not play 100%. 

1981 sees the Cardinals become Whitey Herzog's team as Herzog becomes both field manager and general manager. The Cardinals made trades for players such as Bruce Sutter, David Green, Dave LaPoint, and Gene Tenace, as well as the free-agent signing of Darrell Porter. Not only does Vickrey show how the Cardinals navigated through the 1981 off-season and players' strike, but he also puts Herzog in the spotlight by describing how he handled the ugly Garry Templeton incident that ultimately led to his trade to San Diego.

Second, the 1982 season, where Herzog turns over general manager duties to Joe McDonald, is broken down month-by-month, with each succeeding chapter and near game-by-game summaries that allow the story to flow. While Vickrey breaks down the ebbs and flows of the season, he points out the major high points.

These moments include the Cardinals' 12 straight wins in April, the arrival of former Yankees minor-leaguer Willie McGee, and fighting off the Philadelphia Phillies for the NL East title with strong pitching. 

And, of course, Glenn Brummer’s steal of home

Readers also learn about the individual players' backgrounds, such as Porter, Keith Hernandez, Lonnie Smith, and the newly traded shortstop from the Padres, Ozzie Smith.

Finally, after the Cardinals wrapped up the NL East at 92-70 and the NL pennant over MVP Dale Murphy's Atlanta Braves, Vickrey broke down each of the seven games from the 1982 World Series. These precise game articles put the reader in each game until Bruce Sutter struck out Gorman Thomas to secure the World Series. 

This book is a must-read for fans who loved the 1982 World Champion St. Louis Cardinals. Readers not only learn about the Cardinals' return to excellence, but we learn about the trials and tribulations of almost every player who made a difference in 1982.